Doing Deep Work

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“It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking to compensate for a self love deficit. “ ~ Eartha Kitt

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A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. It is usually undertaken by young males entering adulthood. Individual indigenous cultures have their own names for their rites of passage. “Vision quest” is an English umbrella term, and may not always be accurate or used by the cultures in question.

Among Native American cultures who have this type of rite, it usually consists of a series of ceremonies led by Elders. The process includes a complete fast for four days and nights, alone at a sacred site in nature which is chosen by the Elders for this purpose. Some communities have used the same sites for many generations. During this time, the young person prays and cries out to the spirits that they may have a vision, one that will help them find their purpose in life, their role in community, and how they may best serve the People.

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I am not a young male entering adulthood. And a vision quest is not what I will pursue. Yet, I am acutely aware of deeper trials that I need to and am choosing to resolve for myself.

“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.” “And the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’” ~ Author unknown

Love Yourself More

There is more meaningful work for this warrior. It is time.

What Others Know About You

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“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.” ~ W.H. Auden

Eleven years ago I met my first Life Coach. It was Jane who saw that my blocks and my direction were closely connected. We worked for some time to rediscover my direction. One early exploratory exercise that Jane invited me to pursue was to ask five people to describe me in short words/phrases.

Some time later I realized the purpose and benefit of this exercise. You see, most of us believe we know ourselves better than anyone else. And to measurable extents, this may be true. Yet when those five people replied with candid feedback, I read and learned of strengths that I did not clearly see or embrace.

There is a lot about us that we don’t notice or acknowledge because it’s simply who we are and how we’ve developed over years and through learning and experience. Yet there are often attributes/personal gifts/qualities that define us as seen (and known) by others!

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There is comfort in knowing how connected you are to your strengths. When confident in/with your personal gifts, you expand the potential by which you can impact others and effect favorable change. If you find yourself resenting what you’re doing or the way you are living, ask yourself if you are utilizing what you believe are your qualities and what others see in and know about you.

Some times tapping into what others know about you (that you don’t fully see) can awaken you to reconnect with a dream, with your heart or perhaps, with a new calling. New self-awareness may even inspire you to let go of what you perceive(d) as a strength, once you’ve adopted an even more valuable virtue(s).

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If the prospect of learning how others see you intrigues, I invite you to consider the exercise I embarked upon eleven years ago. It was revealing and the insight that was shared helped me to consider a new direction (and a more passionate focus!), simply because I sought candid input from people who knew me as well as I believed I knew myself.

Naming your personal gifts is unusual but the more exact the better. It is important in asking for words and phrases (not sentences) from respondents that they be honest, positively and negatively. The preliminary steps:

  1. Choose four people from among immediate family members, a close friend(s), former schoolmate, partner, spouse, colleague, supervisor (past of present). Aim for a mix from among all of these. The fifth source of input is yourself.
  2. Ask each of them (and yourself) to “Describe me as you know me,” “Describe me as you see me,” and/or “Describe me as you remember me.”
  3. Your lists will contain lots of words and phrases. When you have all of them, print (don’t type) them on a table.
  4. If/when you get this far and want to know what follows, let me know; I’ll craft a follow-on post. This involves some time and work. Yet the results can be quite telling. 🙂

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Credit: Child playing piano / M-IMAGEPHOTOGRAPHY via Getty Images

Stealing Time

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“Plant you own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.” ~ Veronica Shoffstall

As I type I’m listening to Lisa Gerrard, one of my favorite artists. Her resonant voice has a way of reassuring me that everything is okay and that I’m aligned with my intended purpose and course.

When you’re in the thick of things, it’s hard to get much perspective. Perhaps you’re struggling with a particular decision or you find yourself putting off decisions or making hasty choices if you don’t intentionally pause and reflect. When you’re engaged in any creative activity – writing, designing, running a business – it’s important to create space (some may call this down-time). You need to get away from the constant busyness in order to do the best work that you can.

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Not even a decade ago we weren’t exposed to nearly as much information as we are now. Compare today to a short 50 years ago and the change is mammoth. Processing all this information can be overwhelming, measurably because much of it is useless to us. We need to use our developed cognitive abilities to cope and survive. With so much information having little to do with our personal lives… our well-being, stealing some time away from the helter-skelter can be incredibly relieving.

So I am. I’m going to take some time to decorate my soul. I’ll be offline (and in an undisclosed location) for the next week. Some of us know when time for a break is important.

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I’ll leave you with three reflections tied to solitude, as shared in this post. Some people are blessed with an abundance of time and have the luxury of its being discretionary. For those who presently have less time, consider claiming an hour, a day, or a week, whatever you need to decorate your own soul.

  1. Avoid mindless consumption. When you’re alone you have beautiful opportunities to think clearly about your life and the direction you want to take it. In the “mitote” of today’s world, you’ve earned quiet. If during that time you gain clarity about your path, what fulfills you, or how you’re feeling about what you spend your days doing – then it will have been time well spent. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose epiphany; simple glimmers and insights are valuable too!
  2. Quiet time is often lucid time. Simply sitting down and thinking through a problem can result in very effective solutions. Yet even if a solution isn’t immediately forthcoming, just thinking things through and understanding a problem can bring peace and a certain courage to carry on.
  3. Find a good spot for contemplation. During the week it’s often hard to make time and reunite with nature (or whatever setting works for you). Yet even time for simple walks in fresh air, maybe a very local visualization outing, can bring some clarity and lend a new perspective. Try to find a ‘place of power’ that gives you true inspiration.

Myths, Facts and Reminders

 

“Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens. A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.” ~ D. L. Moody

Retirement myths; they abound. As people plan for and approach life’s Third Act, many think they’ll be spending more time with family and friends. It’s true that you will likely have plenty of discretionary time. And though you may want to spend more time with family and friends, will they have the time to spend with you? Many of them many still be on a hectic treadmill. Consider whether your adult children and their family really want you to come over for dinner every Sunday night?

Perhaps you envision walking hand-in-hand along an exotic beach somewhere. While traveling to romantic destinations is on many people’s short list, be real. For most, those trips will likely be few and far between. Your focus will be better spent on what you’ll be doing on those days in between trips. Costs for those trips add up. Not surprisingly, an Allianz study found that 82 percent of respondents ages 44 to 49 with dependents, feared outliving their money more than death. That doesn’t sound like a crowd spending much time at all-inclusive resorts in Phuket, does it?

Fact: More and more people are working in retirement. Why? To stay mentally active. In a recent survey, money was reason #4 after “to stay physically active,” “social connections,” and “sense of identity/self-worth.” Presently, 80 percent of working retirees said they work because they “want to;” 20 percent said because they “have to.”

In work and research what I continue to find amazing and somewhat alarming, is that many boomers focus largely on the financial planning aspect of life’s Third Act and little else. Here’s where an apt adage applies: “Failure to plan is a plan for failure.” Maybe that’s a bit drastic but it seems fair to think that significant planning, well in advance, is probably going to better your odds of enjoyable retirement living.

Intentionally sidestepping financial planning (because it’s obvious), here are three things to keep in mind for life’s Third Act. You could probably come up with 30 more on the back of an envelope.

  1. Be mindful of how you think. Certain thinking styles can stress people out. Things like perfectionism, all-or-nothing thinking, and negative thinking. As you plan for or help others plan for retirement, be mindful of how you think. Consider lowering your expectations and instead, think in “anticipation” terms. Learn to accept and become comfortable with the fact that reality may not always match your ‘vision.’ Frame problems or potential challenges as opportunities. This is about mindset shifts.
  2. Know what makes you happy (and what makes your partner happy!). Life gets so busy while we are building our careers that we often end up in a rut. We may not have the time or energy to do the things we love. Prior to and once you transition into retirement, choose activities that will make time fly for you!
  3. Get good teeth. You do not want to look into a mirror and see a gnarly smile, even if minor. Dental care can be very expensive, so it’s prudent to get your teeth fixed while you’re still under a dental health plan. The longer you wait, the worse the fate. Dentures are a last-ditch effort and many who have them, hate how they feel and are not happy about limiting their food options. On a related note, healthy gums versus periodontal disease can also help with cardiovascular health.

Masculine Qualities

“There are very few great discoveries in the world. Tantra can claim the greatest discovery. Even after nuclear weapons, Tantra’s discovery has been standing there for ten thousand years unused, an insight of such great value. The insight is that man and woman are not just one – man just man, woman just woman – no. They are both together: man is half man and half woman, and the same is true about women.” ~ Osho, Sermons in Stone

Recently, I was discussing desirable masculine traits with a female colleague. She shared five qualities with me that she heard from Shelly Bullard, a Marriage and Family Therapist. I wasn’t surprised that these five aligned with themes addressed in coaching, as well as qualities frequently highlighted in this blog.

My colleague was explaining reasons we’re attracted to certain people and one of those reasons is whether that person is masculine of feminine. And I suspect some of you reading this post are saying, really?! 🙂 She went on to say that as a man, you must have these qualities to appear attractive to a female. However, not every woman is going to want a man with these distinctly masculine traits. Confused yet?

Presence Presence is the ability to be consciously connected to the here and now. Women can feel a man’s presence when he listens to her. She can feel presence when a man is connected to his core. And presence is a practice at which one can get better. Culturally, we’re in an epidemic of not being present; we find many ways to distract ourselves every day. Thus, being present in interactions is highly desirable and valued.

Purpose According to Bullard, purpose can be many things. It can be to change the world; to push your body to its limits; to build a business or home; to make art; or to be the kindest person you know. It’s not so much about the purpose, rather, it’s that you have a purpose or that you’re in the process of discovering/fulfilling it.

Direction With purpose comes direction. Purpose is knowing what you are here to do and direction is doing it. Women are attracted to men who get things done. A man’s clear direction makes the feminine feel safe. If she knows a man can navigate well on his own, then she has more room to relax in a man’s presence. She doesn’t have to show a man how to do it.

Honesty and Truth Both of these traits are important in all relationships. Trust comes from acting in honest ways. A distinct (though not exclusively) feminine quality is intuition and with intuition comes the ability to sense BS a mile away. (The converse holds true for some men, too.) When a man learns to be completely honest with himself (about struggles, shortcomings, challenges, strengths, etc.) then his integrity can be felt/sensed and he’ll be trusted.

Humor Humor is at the top of most women’s lists because humor has the ability to lighten the mood. The feminine gets bogged down with her emotions, as well as her to-do lists. (Bullard said this, not me.) This is stressful for women. If a man can make her laugh, it’s a getaway to flow. Women are grateful for a man’s ability to add joy and light to everyday life.

Now typed, I’m unsure why I chose to share this. I suppose, in part, it’s because I appreciate and strive to live these qualities – but for my own reasons, not necessarily to satisfy another’s criteria. In my mind, masculine and feminine qualities are gifts. And perhaps it’s the mix that each of us possesses which makes us unique.

So… wise readers, what say ye?

A Convergence of Qualities

“Your attitude is a multitude of aptitude and rectitude which decides your altitude in plenitude.” ~ Vikrant Parsai

Over the last ten days or so, I observed and/or experienced situations that heightened my awareness and in hindsight, left me wondering. I’m not going to delve into the situations other than to acknowledge that they were leadership opportunities.

In several of these settings I anticipated demonstrations of leadership – you know, clear and bold displays of character, honesty, principle, rectitude and integrity. In my opinion, an admirable convergence.

We (there were others observing) thought we’d see leaders channel their positive powers of persuasion, possess and show spine, and share how course of conduct decisions could (and ought to) be made in accordance with reason. Perhaps my cultivated views of leadership are too lofty. In my mind, leaders develop the capacities of others, are characterized by a deep sense of ethics, are driven by core values, and are motivated by the pursuit of a higher purpose.

So I was dumbfounded when I heard and learned many of these people ‘whispering’ about the end not always justifying the means, and intentionally twisting and distorting facts when required for ulterior outcome(s). These individuals represented a broad range of professional walks – religion, academia, athletics, advertising and one that didn’t surprise me, politics.

In my after-the-fact reflection I reminded myself that when you choose to behave with honor and integrity, particularly when other people aren’t doing so, it’s likely someone is going to notice and will make different and better decisions as a result of what they observe in you. When you genuinely and confidently express your support for respect, honesty and trust, it makes it easier for others around you to pass that attitude along.

We don’t need to be in positions of public power to have a positive impact on others. It is how we act in our day-to-day lives, congruent with who we really are, that matters. If you are interested in influencing people in worthy ways, here are three considerations:

  1. Look for the expectant. Focus on positive direction by scanning the news and events for examples of integrity. Talk about what you see and hear with family, friends and colleagues rather than the latest scandal. Make endorsing integrity a stronger value in your life than criticism.
  2. Remind and reinforce others. Sometimes others will show or tell you what you did (or are about to do), is not right. Thank those people, for they are giving you the potential for personal growth.
  3. Be transparent. Most of us would like to be something we’re not. Admit your shortcomings. Part of being honest with yourself is being honest with others. Living transparently and not pretending to be someone you aren’t actually makes people think more of you. Yes, it’s counter-intuitive. It’s also transformative.

Encore!

“We can change the world… Rearrange the world. It’s dying – to get better.” ~ Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)

They were a folk-rock super group. All four members of CSNY pre-dated the baby boomer generation by only two or three years. Yet they were part of ‘our’ generation. 🙂 People related to their musical social commentary. Every now and then they get together for a gig and people still pay to hear their message.

But I digress.

This week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show (podcast here) explored the rapidly growing Encore Movement and the encore concept. My guests were Amy Duggan, Executive Director, Center for Nonprofit Excellence (United Way Central New Mexico) and Barbara “BJ” Jones, an Encore Innovation Fellow. Their bios are available online via the above link.

In 2011, Amy launched the CNM Encore Fellowship Program and in 2013 an Encore Innovation Project to bring encore led capacity building to grantees (associations, organizations) addressing education, health, and self-sufficiency.

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Amy Duggan

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Barbara “BJ” Jones

“BJ,” an Encore Innovation Fellow, is undertaking a one year pilot program with the CNPE to develop a sustainable year-round structure for increasing Encore talent engagement (people over age 50) to further UWCNM’s Community Impact agenda. Redefining retirement, Encore programs align baby boomer skills and talents with nonprofit agencies across communities.

There are amazing ways in which ‘win-wins’ are being created between passion, purpose and community involvement. The Encore Movement is a growing network, nationally and internationally. Never before have there been so many ways for people aged 50+ (the “chronologically gifted”) to re-engage, contribute, and in many cases, earn a paycheck! As one encore.org Purpose Prize winner said, “Engaging in your community inhibits the aging process.”

To learn more about related opportunities, consider listening to the podcast, reading the Encore Career Handbook by Marci Alboher, or going to the Encore web site.  It’s a fascinating world out there for those who may wondering, “what’s next?”

Finding Your Life’s Work

“Our purpose, I believe, is not a thing, place, title, or even a talent. Our purpose is to be. Our purpose is how we live life, not what role we live. Our purpose is found in each moment as we make choices to be who we really are.” ~ Carol Adrienne

I have just found a quote that well expresses one of my life philosophies. Thank you, Carol Adrienne.

As many will attest, sometimes it takes the better part of our life to discover our life’s work, even though we may have been doing it our whole life without necessarily realizing it. Our life’s work is not always what we do to make money, although we often think it should be, and sometimes this way of thinking prevents us from seeing clearly what it is. It may be the work of having children, caring for them, and running a household. The way we know our life’s work is by how we feel when we are doing it.

You know these feelings. When you are doing your life’s work, you feel an uncanny sense of ease and alignment (see related post). This doesn’t mean that work is always easy, and it doesn’t mean that it’s the only work we have to do; it just means that there is a deep conviction within us that tells us we are in tune with our innermost self. When we are engaged in our life’s work, our bodies feel more alive because our energy is feeding us. You may be tired after engaging in your life’s work, but rarely are you depleted. You feel grounded in the world, knowing that you belong here and have something important to offer.

Most of you remember a time when you felt fully engaged in some act of work, service or creativity, and it is here that you may discover the work you are meant to do now. On the other hand, it may be time for you to explore what inspires you through volunteering, taking a class, going back to school, or just doing whatever it is you long to try. Each of you have callings. When you find them, you owe it to yourself to nurture them, because while they may or may not be your livelihood, they are keys to your well-being.

No flash-in-the-pan here people. This is a process. As you continue to explore your life’s calling, keep these points in mind:

  • Be patient. It takes time. Life is a question that never ends. You may not know right now and that’s okay. Can you let go of needing to know and instead accept the fact that it may take some time for you to figure things out?
  • Ask for guidance. You don’t have to do it all by yourself, especially when you don’t know where you’re going. Ask for patience and strength. Something greater, stronger, and wiser than you is always here.
  • Find purpose right here and now. What’s crazy is that we’re always looking for passion and purpose somewhere else. It’s here; you’re living it now – even if you’re searching for greater significance in your life and calling. If you haven’t yet found those things that speak strongly to you, try focusing on how you can bring presence into your current being.

Big Dreams

“If you don’t have a dream, how can you have a dream come true?”

~ Jiminy Cricket

I don’t know about you but I’ve got them! Big dreams are not only for the young or naïve. Everyone needs big dreams because they inspire, guide, and enhance our lives and performance. Unfortunately, big dreams take time to fulfill making it easy to become distracted by doubts, frustrations, and setbacks. Staying positive and managing the distractions will keep the focus on the dream rather than the distractions. Two strategies used now and when distractions arise can maintain your focus and support the realization of big dreams.

  • Paint Your Dream – Imagine and visualize a detailed vision of the dream as if it were now fulfilled. Where are you and what are you doing? See yourself easily and joyfully living your dream. Fill in the color, sounds, feelings, and activities. The more detail in your painting the more powerful the dream and the more attractive the path to living it. The more often your dream is painted in your mind, the sooner it will be realized.
  • Act on the Dream Today – A dream is fulfilled with time, committed effort, and persistence. Taking at least one action (small is best) each day keeps the dream in focus and moves you closer to its fulfillment. It will be the accumulation of daily actions that create the reality of the dream.

I’ve learned a lot about dreaming big through my own journey (including my missteps) and from coaching others. Big dreams give purpose and meaning to life and performance. Big dreams do come true and they can come true for you.  Take a moment to review your big dreams. Then, apply focused action, increased self-confidence, and these two strategies to bring them into your realm of possibilities. Feel the hope and motivation that only big dreams can inspire.

Now go and live those dreams! 🙂

Strengthening Self-Belief

“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.”  Anonymous

How well do you know yourself? I mean really knowing your authentic self?

How about believing in yourself? Confidently? In total assuredness?

These are substantive questions. Honestly answering them can be quite revealing. And rewarding.

For much of my adult life, I have seriously believed in myself. That’s not been so much the challenge. Where I have had to dig deep and work hard is at getting to know who I am – at my core.

What I’ve learned (thus far) is that there is a subtle difference between confidence and self-belief. Self-belief has to do with a strong view or conviction you hold regarding yourself, and your abilities or characteristics. Confidence has to do with the trust you have in yourself as a person, and your abilities and characteristics.

For the most part self-belief and confidence go hand in hand. While it is difficult to have confidence without self-belief, it is possible to have self-belief, and little confidence. The reason why is because confidence has more to do with current capacity than with ability. So, for example, if you are not feeling well or are fatigued, that would affect your ability to perform to your best.

There are many schools of thought on the interplay between self-belief and confidence. What is generally acknowledged is that your level of self-belief is a good predictor of success and achievement in many different areas of your life. On a flip side, what prevents you from gaining confidence is the belief that “this is how you are” and that’s all there is to it. Both, however, are directly related to your life experiences.

Be not discouraged though (and I’m not suggesting you are). The good news is that it is possible to build confidence and self-belief. Here are five exercises to help strengthen the views you hold about yourself:

  • Imagine yourself successful. Always picture yourself successful. Visualize your desires and goals. See yourself in new settings, capable, and self-confident.
  • Reflect on your past successes. Each are proof that you are capable of achieving more success. Recall this when you begin to lose faith in yourself.
  • Set definite goals. Have a clear direction of where you want to go. Be aware of when you begin to deviate from your goals and take immediate corrective action.
  • Respond positively to life. Develop a positive self-image. Your image, your reactions to life and your decisions are completely within your sphere of influence.
  • Stay in touch with those things that have meaning and purpose in your life, because this will naturally build confidence and self-belief.